A Society's Self Destruction In The Handmaid's Tale By Margaret Atwood

1846 words - 8 pages

A Society's Self Destruction in The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood


The Handmaid's Tale Many fictitious novels written today mirror real life; this tactic can
provide readers with a sense of formality. Yet in some cases, fictitious novels provide readers with
the shocking realization of a society's self destruction. I believe The Handmaid's Tale, written by
Margaret Atwood, falls in the second category. Issues raised in this novel such as manipulation,
public punishment, ignorance, and pollution are problems we face in the world today. Atwood's
conception of the future encompasses many of these problems, and her use of these extreme
conditions force readers to recognize her ...view middle of the document...

In this one day, Offred lost her job, access to her
life savings, and any say regarding her future. This is a frighteningly similar situation to an article
written in the July '97 issue of Homemaker's Magazine. A ragtag band of bandits called the Taliban
... thundered into the capital city of Kabul on September 27 of last year, and overnight the lives of
women and girls were catapulted back to the dark ages. After hanging the government leaders in the
public square, the Taliban announced their draconian decrees on the radio: schools for girls were
immediately closed. Women could no longer work. They had to be completely covered ... because
"a woman's face corrupts men."1 (Global Issues) Muslim scholars all over the world say this is a
"grab for power and control in a country that's been struggling with unrest for 18 years. It is also
misogyny, a contempt for women that goes hand in hand with the disturbing rise in extremism in
Muslim countires."2 (Global Issues) Men who abuse their power, for whatever reason, pose a
serious problem to society's advancement. As Atwood presents this issue in her book, the
connection to the situation in Afghanistan establishes an alarming insight into a conceivable future.
Besides the issue of women being manipulated, the government of Gilead in The Handmaid's Tale
abuses its power in other ways. Public hangings, or Salvagings, are another example. This method to
deter subversive activity is taken to the extreme; "the criminals of society" are first drugged, and then
hung in an absurd setting, where the whole town is forced to witness an act that present Western
civilization considers private. Yet in Atwood's future world, dead bodies hanging on the Wall are a
common sight. We stop, together as if on signal, and stand and look at the bodies. It doesn't matter if
we look. We're supposed to look: this is what they are there for, hanging on the Wall. Sometimes
they'll be there for days, until there's a new batch, so as many people as possible will have the chance
to see them. - page 31 The Eyes who control Gilead choose to kill off all political dissenters, falsely
accusing them of committing illegal acts, then punishing them in a public manner that is very disturbing.
This fictitious scene is not far from the truth in India, where the lynching of a village girl and her two
alleged lovers made Canadian newspaper headlines. The public lynching was thought necessary by
the "court" in order to punish the 16-year-old girl of eloping with members of different castes. The
young men were hanged for "transgressing the village code prescribed for their Chamaar
community."1 (Reuter) The lynching sentences intensified the tension in the 3000-year-old
Chamaar-Jat rivalry. India's caste system is quite similar to the social set-up in The Handmaid's Tale.
India's caste system - a complex social order in which certain groups are viewed as superior to
others - originated thousands of years ago in one of...

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